What is deceleration inhibition and how is it hurting your bench press numbers?
When you do an exercise, your body (without your conscious thought) will slow down your limbs as they get closer to the end of their ranges of motion. In the bench press, this happens as you get closer to the top of the movement. Your body has this reaction in order to prevent injury but it also limits the amount of power you can apply to an exercise.
If your body is actively working to slow down the weight as you come to the top, you simply won't be able to lift as much!
Now look at the bench press...one of the limiting factors in the bench press is that part of the force from the muscles is used to decelerate the bar to keep it from throwing your shoulders out of the socket as you go through the movement. Your body does this by firing the back muscles.
When you're lifting around 80% of your maximum weight, when you get to the halfway point of the movement, your body starts to fire the back muscles to try to slow your limbs down. This means during half of the bench press movement, your body is actually trying to slow down the bar.
When you're using near maximum weights, since the weights are heavier and push down on you more, your body now starts to slow the bar down at about the 3/4 point in the rep, leaving you with a quarter of the movement where your body is trying to slow the bar down. This is still a very significant portion of the rep where your body is working against you!
This slowing can be a cause of sticking points. Quite often, people have trouble locking out the top few inches of the movement when using heavier weight. This can be because their body is actively slowly the bar down as they come to the top.
It can also contribute to sticking points about halfway through the movement when using more moderate weight. Naturally, there are many more factors involved with where sticking points happen, but the nervous system can certainly contribute. Overcoming this deceleration inhibition can help you overcome sticking points.
You can overcome nervous system holdback with plyometric (explosive or rebound) training like medicine ball throws (they aren't heavy enough, though). However, a good option is to do pop-up push-ups on the bench press itself, done right before you start your bench workout as a warm-up. Start by kneeling on the end of the bench, facing the bar.
Fall forward, catching yourself on the bar in the bench press position.
Then explosively push yourself right back up to the start position (letting your hands leave the bar), as though you're popping back up.
Another technique for overcoming deceleration inhibition is to attach large chains to the bar. When you start the rep, most of the length of chain is on the floor.
As you lift up and pull more and more links off the floor, the increasing weight of the chains helps to decelerate the weight without requiring muscular involvement. You can push as hard and explosively as you want without your body having to slow the bar down.
You see, what your body doesn't realize is that you don't generally need your limbs to be slowed down in the heavy bench press - if the resistance is heavy enough, that'll slow your limbs down for you.
All the inhibition does is make it harder to lift the weight. Doing a set or two of 6 to 8 reps of this pop-up warm-up detailed above (where you explode up and away from the bar) sends your body the signal that it doesn't need to decelerate the limbs in this movement.
The end result is you'll be able to bench press more weight.
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